ABOU Ben Adam sitting on a day,
Forlorn and silent by Maroubra Bay,
And tasting scornfully the tame sea-spray,
Said: “Would to God, if any God there be,
That there would come some sudden chance on me
To change this life of dull tranquility!
“These multitudinous misspent mountain-waves,
These long, low rollers that re-fill the caves,
The sun that over them his banner waves—
“My God! how does he wave it! look, from east
To west the glory comes and is increased.
And all the world decks for a wedding feast—
“All these things weary me. The seas that roll
Unceasing from the awful Silent Pole
They bring no message to my yearning soul.
“I watch them from the far horizon roam
Unto the reefs that lie below my home—
Prophets of nothing, with their lips of foam!”
Abou Ben Adam, fishing in the sea,
Brought up a fish that sparkled splendidly;
It was a woman fairer far than he.
Her eyes were blue as in the morning breeze,
Her breasts were whiter than the foaming seas,
Her lips were red as sea-anemones.
Abou Ben Adam, by Maroubra Bay,
Took her to shore, all shining with the spray …
They lived there in his cabin many a day.
They lived full many a day and saw the torn
White breakers seethe around their Land of Morn,
And unto them were many children born.
The red geraniums on their window-stand
Smiled always gay defiance from the land
Unto the sea that snarled along the strand.
Splendid nasturtiums did their banners blow,
And red-voiced roses with their lips aglow,
Against this steadfast, silent, scornful snow.
Abou Ben Adam, in a silent poise,
Sat fishing with his five sea-salted boys. …
But in the house the woman heard the noise.
She heard the noise of all the gods of old,
Of all the nations dead; of all the gold
Resplendent burials in the ocean old.
Then spake she, fire-eyed, through her gloaming hair,
To One that for Ben Adam waited there—
Not dark as she, but all so darkly fair;
“I stood and caught him in the splendid surge
Of shining days. He did my sea-ships urge,
Scald-song and sea-song, asagard or dirge.
“I, who have heard the masts at Byrsa hum,
Who laughed at Antony, at Actium,
Shall I not say unto my lover—‘Come?’
“The sea roared like a lion over-past
With many feasts; upon each shore were cast
Three worlds in white delirium from the Past;
“And I stood splendidly above the foam
Of galleys and the fire of fane and dome,
And scorned the wreck of many-triremed Rome.
“For I was greater than all wrecks of these—
Venus and Dian over lands and seas,
Muse of all Lovers; Muse of Tragedies.”
The Other spake no word, but sat content,
And into that green ocean imminent,
Her long, green arms, like slender spirals, went.
Nothing could touch him; far from all was he,
And that red kiss that touched him tenderly
Was as the kiss of the forgetting sea.
They took and buried him where grasses be,
Far from the kiss of that forgetting sea;
The Dark One said—“He still shall lie with me.”
© Victor Daley